Happiness and spiritual fitness

Happiness and spiritual fitness

I thought you  might find this article interesting over the festive season…

by Diana Boufford from Positive Psychology News Daily

Let’s explore ways that people can build spiritual fitness, even as they experience the physical, social, financial, cognitive, and memory losses that occur more frequently and rapidly in old age. Let’s start with the story of Mrs. M.

Resurfacing Experiences: PTSD and Compassion

Sometimes due to illness, dementia, or life circumstances, symptoms of PTSD will return to prominence in older people. Mrs. M, an 89-year-old woman, was a survivor of the Siberian death camps of World War II. When she had to come into transitional care within a local long term care facility, she found herself lapsing into depression as memories and flashbacks of her years in the death camp resurfaced.

When I went to see her, she told me that due to the chronic pain recovering from surgery and to the necessity of being away from home among strangers, she found herself feeling frightened, lonely, and worried, much like she had felt when she and her family were forced onto the cattle cars that transported them to the camps. She was desperately trying to retain her hopes of returning home to her husband, who needed her to care for him, but her own recovery was slow, keeping her in the rehabilitation facility.

I shared with Mrs. M the story of Viktor Frankl, how he had been at the Auschwitz camp at the same time that she was in Siberia. I told her how, from his witnessing and suffering, a belief emerged that people are able to survive nearly anything when they have a purpose and meaning for their survival.

Then I asked Mrs. M, “What was it that you were able to do, that you survived Siberia when so many did not?”

She reflected upon this for a few moments. She then looked at me and said “Compassion. It was compassion that let me survive that horrible place.”

“How was that?” I asked.

She then explained to me that there was another young girl there (Mrs. M was 14 when taken prisoner) who was intensely agitated because she was so terribly infested with lice. She had horrible sores on her head, and the blood would run down her face from the wounds created from her scratching and the biting of the bugs.

“I told her,” said Mrs. M, “that the only way to help this is to brush your hair every day! I taught her how to care for her hair. That was all I could do. I think it was the compassion I felt for her, and for everyone else, that helped me survive.”

I suggested to Mrs. M that she could draw upon these same feelings and skills to help her cope with being away from home and the pain and work of recovery. She agreed. Within two weeks, she went home. Before she left the nursing home, staff reported that her coping had improved, as had her mood. She was observed engaging in conversations with others more often, and assisting some of the residents in their daily routines.

Spiritual Fitness

This story beautifully illustrates the post-traumatic growth described by Baumgartner and Crothers, where some people, despite trauma and suffering, recover and even surpass their levels of previous functioning by developing and growing in other areas of their lives.

I believe that one of the cornerstones for the development of Spiritual Fitness is the ability to move beyond one’s basic needs and wants to serve something greater than one self. Spiritual growth can occur during periods of trauma and hardship. According to Frankl, people need a sense of purpose and meaning in life to sustain them. When this purpose and meaning is reignited, the quality of life for an elder and/or caregiver can be significantly improved. Even people who are unable to do much any more can serve by accepting gracefully the service of others, recognizing that their needs give others purpose and meaning…

…if you're enjoying this then keep reading the full & original article HERE